Dear Malvern Prep students–
A few weeks ago, Lou Colameco ’77 spoke to our Social Entrepreneurship class. Lou is a member of our Board of Trustees, the founder and CEO of Wellshire Farms, and probably the single most generous person I know.
He also went bankrupt in his mid-30s.
One day, after Lou had spent years laboring with his father in a variety of businesses, the IRS came knocking to say that they owed back taxes. This was one of the lowest moments of his life (the other two being his younger brother’s tragic death and his first wife’s death).
And yet Lou paid off his creditors in three years (even though his bankruptcy permitted him to take five years). And unlike typical bankruptcies, in which only the major creditors get paid back something and the little guys get nothing, Lou paid back everyone.
How did he do this? And how did he then go on to found Wellshire Farms, which last year did $130M in revenue?
Lou’s short answer: Malvern Prep.
As he told the Social Entrepreneurship students, Malvern Prep taught him how to figure out how to solve any problem thrown at him. Malvern did this by teaching him to ground himself in his faith, to learn how to learn, and to maintain an entrepreneurial mindset. In other words, Malvern had formed him to be Augustinian in his heart; globally literate in his thinking; and entrepreneurial in his problem solving.
I share Lou’s story because if you remember only one thing about me and my time here, I hope it will be this: I tried my best to help Malvern grow in its capacity to form Augustinian, globally literate, and entrepreneurial learners.
While it may not always have been obvious to you, I have also tried to walk that walk, and always as part of a team. Whether it was transforming the library into the Learning Commons, launching and iterating on our Summer Institute for Teachers or our Academy approach to learning, or cycling through six iterations of Social Entrepreneurship, I have loved being a part of diverse teams striving to improve your Malvern Prep experience. These teams have looked to our Augustinian charism for guidance; we have sought to learn new things (I have learned more in the last five years than in the rest of my life combined); and we have attempted to bring an entrepreneurial mindset to challenges and opportunities.
This didn’t come easily to me: in order to shift from being a full-time classroom teacher to being Head of School, I had to learn entirely new skills and knowledge sets. And I didn’t always succeed in helping my team. But I do know that we created positive changes for Malvern Prep, and for you.
As I prepare to hand the baton to Fr. Reilly, I have been thinking a lot about these things because I care deeply about what comes next for you. You are entering a world of accelerating change. Not only is the world changing rapidly, but the rate of that change continues to increase. It is my conviction that if you accept the opportunities to become more Augustinian in your hearts, more globally literate in your thinking, and more entrepreneurial in your problem solving, you will navigate those accelerating changes. More importantly, you will also lead by creating positive social impact.
And as I prepare to hand the baton to Fr. Reilly, I have also been thinking about some of my favorite Malvern memories.
I’ll never forget welcoming alumnus Ray Warman ’66 and his husband Dan to the Duffy Theater to see our stunning production of The Laramie Project. It took years for Ray to believe that Malvern Prep would accept him and love him for who he is. When I saw Ray and Dan watching Malvern students bring Laramie to life, I felt that we were taking a critical step in becoming a more diverse and inclusive community. A more Augustinian community.
I’ll never forget watching slack jaws turn into grins as students wrote on the walls for the first time in the Learning Commons. For those who were not here in 2012-13, to enter the library you had to pass through a turnstile and stay very, very quiet for the duration of your stay. Writing on walls at that time was…well, inconceivable. It was thrilling to see students collaborate and create without any direction from teachers.
I’ll never forget the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Christmas Talent Shows, when the Duffy Theater during erupted in song as Marty Farrell Sr. sang “The Irish Rover” (aka, “No Nay Never”). And even after his son Marty Jr. had graduated, we still continued to sing that song together during the Christmas Talent Show.
I have many more fond memories, but not enough space to include them. So I will end on this note:
Lou Colameco’s Malvern Prep experience formed him for life. My Malvern Prep experienced happened during my adulthood, but it formed me too. And my greatest consolation is that it will do the same for all of you.
No matter where we go, Malvern will always be in our hearts.